“You cannot volunteer at your own church, in the same way you cannot babysit your own kid. Because the church belongs to you in the same way your family does. It’s your own place, your own people. So of course, you help take care of it. Of course, you do yard work, and make coffee, and teach the kids, and sing in the choir, and whatever all else it is you do for the home and the people that you love.” (Erin Watham)
Volunteering is part of the secular culture, the corporate culture even, that says that you can spend whatever time you are willing to give for an organization you care about, and then move on. Typically, there’s no real skin in the game. If you don’t volunteer, someone else probably will, and the work will get done without you. At least that’s how I feel about the multitude of things I was asked to do as a parent at my kid’s elementary schools. I occasionally brought birthday cakes, organized auctions, or decorated for field days, - but I could just as easily say “no.” That’s volunteering. It made me feel good when I participated most of the time. But it was really based on my own time, and my own inclinations.
Some larger churches may be able to get away with the language of volunteerism. Certainly, they have complex systems for organizing gifts and givers by sheer volume. But this invites a more casual attitude about how and when a person participates. Does the participant feel an internal reward for a job well done? Do they feel needed as essential to the ministry of the church and as a part of the greater whole? I’m not so sure.
In our congregation here in Center Moriches, what you do goes way beyond volunteering. Sure you do jobs – yard work, making coffee, spending time with the kids, singing in the choir, coordinating our mission efforts, - but it’s probably more like the work you do for family than checking a volunteer box on a sign-up sheet.
You probably don’t “volunteer” to make dinner at home. You probably don’t “volunteer” to clean out the basement. But you do those things in service to the other people under a social contract of care. In the church, we call it –a service, a ministry, a joyful obedience – to sharing in the work of ushering in God’s kingdom.
We, together, are responsible for this place, and its people. And you have shown me how deeply you carry out these responsibilities. We have lived through up-dating, remodeling, and reorganization. We bring food, serve tea, attend fairs, make phone calls, and listen. We deepen our faith as we share responsibility side by side in everything from ringing the bell to serving on deacons and Session boards, from changing out paraments, to filling food bags for folks in our community. All, and I mean ALL these tasks, - are part of the work it takes to be in meaningful ministry together. The church is the church – because of the loving care we show for one another, and for this sacred place; keeping up the properties and all the ways we demonstrate hospitality inside the buildings and out. Whatever we do, we don’t just belong to the church. It belongs to us.
Well done, good and faithful servants and ministers of the Presbyterian Church of the Moriches. You do so many, many tasks unnoticed, and without much thanks or praise, because these are your people. And you also know that these are God’s people. And the love you have for each other shows.